Tag Archives: blogging

Searching for The Crow

I was going through some old posts, trying to decide which ones to copy and archive, and decided to look at some of the stats for this blog. While I don’t get very many hits at all, I do get some unusual search items that take people here to my blog. I’ve compiled some of the more unusual below:

 

hooker  – (I had 8 searches for this, and I can’t figure out how/why. Maybe had something to do with the Courtney Love post I did…)

group bong – (there were about 18 different searches containing the word “bong”.)

kids with liquor – (makes parenting easy)

gulf of mexico death oil – (death oil is the most flammable type…)

truths about parenting – (there are none! buyer beware!)

right livelihood beer – (probably better than Busch)

fail french people – (yes.)

fly like a brit – (with an umbrella!)

make your own jataka tale – (hungry tigress not included)

two evil children – (I’d say ill-tempered rather than evil…)

fly like a crow, meaning (after 3 years I’m still trying to figure this one out…)

i cannot sit and do daimoku. (stand?)

drunk photography  – (friends don’t let friends drink and shoot)

job decrease death  –  (depends on the job I guess…)

butcher meat gross  –  (I much prefer accountant meat…)

who were the victims in Arizona  – (all the people that live there)

like fly a crow  –   (thanks!)

put back once done –   (my wife hates it when I don’t do that)

moose fight club  – (you already broke the first rule!)

i hate my religion nichiren shoshu stop forcing me  (no comment)

fatherhood failblog  –   (probably a much better name for this blog and almost certainly much more interesting….)

fly like an ego (it’s fly like an eagle Mr. Miller…)

gilda radner + book + zen (= disaster)

are you a wizard    –     (a wizard never tells!)

killing sperm isn’t murder but killing a fetus is?? how so?   (If so, I’m easily the world’s most heinous serial killer)

miss budweiser girls  (come for the dharma, stay for the eye candy)

killing sperm Buddhism  (again with the sperm)

christina taylor green dad there were four of us, now there are three  (sorry)

calling bullshit on the lotus sutra  (you can call, but I don’t think he’ll answer)

on the path of looking for what i wanted i found what i needed  (great!)

i hear my echo in the echoing wood meaning   (it means lay off the fucking shrooms)

what happens if crow sit in head and fly send reply   (I’ve got nothing)

my dad won’t be attending my baptism   (sorry)

bill maher likes beer  (me too)

to help prevent climate change, we should fly once a year  (with wings?)

epic fail Buddhist  (most appropriate search term for this blog ever)

 

 

Cheers.

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A Slice of Life

Yesterday much to my surprise I found that this blog is a finalist for a “Best ‘Life’ Blog” Blogisattva award. I am very much in shock and extremely humbled by this. I am also really excited that I’ve been nominated along some of my favorite blogs:

  • Cheerio Road – Blogger: Karen Maezen Miller – Karen is an accomplished writer and speaks to the many of us that struggle with bringing Buddhist practice into our daily lives. (gee, wonder who is going to win this one?! lol)

 

  • Digital Zendo – Blogger: Jaye Seiho Morris – Jaye’s writing comes directly from his heart. He is lay-ordained in the Rinzai tradition, and I’ve had the pleasure of conversing with him through email and twitter, and I really enjoy his perspective. He defines Zen as “unification of heart-mind” which is something I profoundly appreciate.

 

  • Mind Deep – Blogger: Marguerite Manteau-Rao – Marguerite is another blogger writing from heart to heart on everything from her experience with death and hospice to bringing wonderful women teachers into a brighter light.

 

  • The Buddhist Blog – Blogger: James Ure – for me, Jame’s blog will always be my “gateway” blog. His was the first dharma-flavored blog I read and it was there that I found many of my other favorite blogs.

 

The title “life” blog got me thinking. Each one of these blogs I read just about each time they post. But to say that I know any of these people would be wrong view. I have no real idea who these people are, or anything about their “lives”. I only ever get just a slice. And you, reading this now, only ever get a tiny slice of my life here. You have no idea what my life is really like, but only what I want you to think about it, because it is all filtered in that way (consciously or not). There is so much more that never even gets mentioned. There are a few bloggers that I also keep up fairly regular email correspondence with, but to say that I know what it would be like to share a beer or argument or special moment face to face with any of those people would again be false.

But I don’t think it’s pointless or worthless or of no value to connect with these people. I think the category “life” is a perfect one to have up there. We may only get a slice here and there, but the experiences these people share when they’ve touched those slices can be of incredible importance. I can relate to each one of the above bloggers in one way or another, and for that connectedness I am grateful. I will never be as connected to them as I am my wife or children, but their accounts reach out to ensure all of us readers that mistakes can be met with success, but it doesn’t always end up that way (and that’s okay too sometimes). We also find through their writing that our experiences with the dharma are ever evolving and colored by our real-life experiences; which are then colored by our contact with the dharma.

I can honestly say that when the winners are announced tomorrow that I already consider myself a “winner” in some respect. Just the fact that I’ve been put up with such great company means to me that blogging about my practice, perspective and struggles can be of benefit to both others and myself. Recognition for that alone is wonderful, and for that I am grateful.

If you haven’t checked out the Blogisattva site yet, please do. As I’ve said before this award process is really about having some fun and discovering some new blogs. Many of the blogs that I regularly read were nominated or received honorable mentions, and I was also able to discover quite a few new blogs that I’ve added to my reader. Congrats to all those nominated, and thank you to all who continue to share your experiences with the world.

Cheers.

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Life!

Life has had me very busy these past few weeks. We had been planning on having a c-section scheduled for our daughter that is due to arrive in the next couple of weeks. Turns out that is no longer necessary, which is a huge relief. But that still means that lots of preparations have to be made, and a lot of my deadlines have been moved up at work. I have a few posts in the works, but my internet use has been fairly sporadic.

Speaking of internet use, I’ve created a little tumblr account. Photography is something I’ve always been mildly interested in but never really pursued. Lately I’ve had the bug to take more photos and focus on it a bit more. To showcase some of those photos (as well as force me to take some so I’ll have something to post) I created Dharma Snapshots. Nothing fancy. Just some photos that I’ve taken and liked, as well as some teeny tiny dharma tidbits I find and enjoy. Feel free to look around there. I’ve added a link up at the top of this blog that will take you directly there.

Cheers.

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“I never really cared for smells & bells” – an Interview with Jomon of the blog “Nothing to Attain”

Every so often, Nate over at the Precious Metal blog throws out a call for some sort of blog swap. This time we were tasked with interviewing the blogger we were paired up with. You can see a list of all those participating here. I was paired up with Jomon (Laura) from the wonderful blog “Nothing to Attain“. Update: my portion of the interview is up at Laura’s blog here. Here’s the interview:

In exactly 108 words, describe Laura to the world.

Hah!  I have really go to work on being too dang wordy!  108 words would be a great practice for the blog!

Speaking of transplanting (see her questions to me on her blog), what about it met your expectations? What about moving to the West Coast shocked you or failed to live up to your expectations? What is it that you miss about the Mid-West? What is it that you will never, ever miss?

I miss my parents and my mid-West friends but they now have a wonderful place to visit.  I seriously miss Major League Baseball.  Portland is tough for baseball fans, and worse for this third-generation Cardinals fan (my maternal grandmother used to take my mom out of school to watch games).  Not only does Portland not have a major league baseball team, we are losing our AAA team!  So my husband Patrick got the iPhone app that allows us to listen to all the MLB radio broadcasts.  We get to hear all the corny St Louis area car dealer commercials we grew up with.  And don’t hate me, but I still love Budweiser.  I know, seriously, I’m living in Beervana, and I still love Budweiser.  I tried, I really did.  I guess you can take the girl outta St Louis…

I do believe it is safe to say that I will never, ever miss pulling ticks off of my skin and clothing after hikes in the woods.  I continue to be shocked and awed by the beauty of the PNW.   That and the prevalence of Buddhism.  The midwest has pockets of teachers and practice centers, but not the wealth we have on the coasts, especially the number of retreat centers.  And Portland!  Throw a baseball in Southeast Portland and you’re likely to hit a Buddhist.

How do you balance your personal life with your practice/sangha?

Personal life has pretty much fused with practice / sangha.  My husband and I got married at Great Vow Zen Monastery.  We had a realization that spiritual practice needed to be at the center of our lives.  We didn’t need to be in the same tradition; we just happen to be lucky that we both managed to find our way onto the same path.

So now my husband is the president of the ZCO Board, and I’ve been the Portland Shuso for the past year, and serving on a few committees as well.  We both have held various service positions, like chant leader, and bell-ringer over the years.  I guess our center is benefitting from the fact that we don’t and probably won’t have children.  I feel something like motherly love towards our Sangha and temple.  Patrick and I sometimes look at each other, awestruck at whatever it is — luck, good karma — that brought us to such a place of deep, authentic practice.

Letsee, though, non-Buddhist stuff — dragonboating is a great activity — I’ve been taking a bunch of yoga classes, doing photography, going to basketball or baseball games.  We do our best to get out into the forests or camping on the coast.  And there may be another attempt at a dog this fall.  We are such dog people; it is painful to be without a dog for this long.

Do you have a favorite sutra, or one that speaks to you more than any others?

You mean like reading the Sutras?  Heretofore I have not done a lot of reading on Zen and Buddhism.  I know that is a bit backwards from many practitioners, who get inspired by reading then start practicing.  I have read some of the Vimilakirti Sutra.  Just reading Robert Thurman’s intro to his translation was enough for me to chew on for months!

We regularly chant the Heart of Great Perfect Wisdom Sutra.  That is where the name of my blog comes from:  “With nothing to attain a Bodhisattva relies on Prajna paramita and thus the mind is without hindrance.  Without hindrance there is no fear.”

One of my biggest struggles in life and in practice is with attainment.  Getting somewhere.  Being somebody.  Improving.  Meeting goals and objectives.  It gets at the heart of a deep assumption that I am somebody and that there is something inherently wrong, or unworthy about that somebody.  The words “nothing to attain” serve as such a great reminder that this is not at all the case.

Same question kind of, but instead of sutra, whats the one koan that has spoken to you, or ‘shook’ you more than any other?

This is a good question — my experience with koan practice in general is that koan practice itself shakes me to the core, and then shakes that ‘core’ apart!  Koans lure out all our best strategies and then they reveal those strategies to us as completely ineffectual.  I suspect they are all pointing to something more than just our best thinking and strategies.  I have most recently worked on “the True Person of no rank,” and that one flirted with me, charmed me, and then it grabbed me and held on.

What’s up with Rinzai?  What made you choose Rinzai? It seems that the Soto school of Zen is the more popular one here in the US, so I’m wondering what it was that drew you there.

Our teachers come from the Yasutani-Maezumi lineage, which is really a fusion of Soto and Rinzai.  Currently their teacher is Shodo Harada Roshi, a Rinzai teacher, and his influence can be felt deeply.  I certainly didn’t research all the branches of Buddhism and then pick “The One” for me.  I just happened to trip over myself and land in the laps of some very amazing teachers who have come out of this / these lineages.  It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t go all researching about.  I would have developed a bunch of ideas about what Zen is, what Rinzai and Soto is, and it probably would have made a convincing argument to myself to stay the hell away from all of it!  Zen has such a macho rep, and there is some truth to that, I suppose.  I hear some of that from people who from the outside say Zen is “too disciplined”, “too regimented”, “too cold”.  I have been fortunate to practice in a woman-led Sangha, and with such skilled teachers, and such a mature Sangha, that in my experience, there is a really huge, warm heart in Zen!  Roshi Chozen has been doing a Metta Sesshin for many years.  It was controversial at first because Metta is not officially a Zen practice, but she acknowledges there was some need to warm it up a little.

More on Rinzai: how would you describe Rinzai to someone that knows next to nothing about it? What advice would you give to someone thinking about diving in to that particular school?

I have rewritten this answer until it is hash.  And I still do not feel adequate to really say something useful and I am not exactly sure that the following is not  a bunch of bullcrap.  I can pretty much just say some of the things I have heard our teachers say about the distinction, and I have felt the distinction when they have done more Rinzai-inspired sesshin, so please, add grain o’ salt here.

One of the differences is that of gradual (Soto) vs immediate (Rinzai) enlightenment.  The Soto school stresses that we are already Buddha.  The Rinzai school stresses pointed effort and the experience of kensho.  To me, when you put them together, it is like Suzuki Roshi’s comment that we are all fine just the way we are, and we need to do better.

This intensity of Rinzai appeals to me very deeply.  We don’t know if this is our last moment.  So to practice intensely is in alignment with that deep truth.  And it reminds me of the wholeheartedness of dragon boating.  A close friend of mine described my husband and me as “constitutionally incapable of phoning it in.”  This is not to say that a Soto practice is not intense; that shikantaza is not an all-consuming practice.  This is why I defer an answer to an actual teacher.  What the hell do I know about it?

Rinzai, Soto, Zen, Insight, Shambhala… regardless of where you practice, the advice I would give anybody about diving into any spiritual community would be the same — to show up.  More than once.  To take your time, to observe, to pay attention to your heart and your head in equal measure, to ask around about the reputation of the place, to observe the senior students, to see if the people at this Temple have something you want.

If I knew anything about anything before I started practicing, I swear I would have thought I’d have to be an Insight Meditation practitioner wearing layers of colorful drapey clothing, and purple scarves, not so much Buddha, more mindfulness.  I never really cared for smells & bells.  I had to come at it slowly.  It took me a year to really begin a regular practice with the community downtown.  There was never any pressure, just a constant, open-handed offering.   I found that for me, it’s not really about the forms.  It’s the relationships.  The Sangha.  Whatever form that takes is not so important I think. I mean, it is, but the important thing is to practice.  To show up.  That is the most important thing.

What sparked the moment when you said Yes! Buddhism is it for me! (or whatever)

It was after my first weekend meditation retreat.  This was a super-gentle, Vipassana-led, women-only, completely permissive retreat at a really nice hippie-run hot springs resort out here.  You can’t get a more gentle intro to retreat practice.  And even so, holy shit it was hard!  All that sitting with my bored, pained, dissatisfied, worried, judging, self-critical self.  And while things did smooth out a little bit by the end of the retreat, it wasn’t until a few days afterwards that my soon-to-be husband and I were having a VERY painful discussion about our relationship, which was in crisis.  And for the first time in my life, I could actually HAVE that discussion, and actually hear him, and really hold his feelings and experience before just reacting with my own defensiveness.  It was not just mind-boggling, but it turned out to be what saved our relationship.  Yes!  Buddhism is for me!

Does your extended family all practice? Or are you the black sheep? How do they feel about it? Has it caused any strife?

My parents do not understand it at all.  I think they might worry a little bit.  They’re a bit old school Christians, and I know they’re a bit uncomfortable with the “graven images” of Buddha.  I get that.  But we can and do talk about it, and I think they have been reassured to some degree that there is no worship of an idol going on here.  There is nothing I could do to diminish my parents’ love for me.  They are worriers, though. As far as extended family Buddhists, I am apparently related to Jimmie Dale Gilmore by marriage.  It’s a fairly remote connection, but if you count my extended family out that far, then I’m not alone in practicing Buddhism.  Otherwise, yeah.  Becoming a Buddhist came totally outta left field for my family, but it’s not much of a struggle with them.  My dad isn’t interested.  I don’t talk about it much to them.  They really don’t get how we can take so much time off to attend retreats.  That is just so not in their Protestant Work Ethic frame of reference.  It’s become such a clear priority for our lives.  And our lives have been gradually reflecting more of this priority all the time. They just want me to be happy, and I think they can see a lot of the contentment and satisfaction, the fruits of practice, so that is reassuring to them.

What is it in life that you struggle with most?

Confidence.

What is it in your practice that you struggle with most?

Confidence.

What do you tell people who are unfamiliar with Buddhism when they ask you about it?

I think most people who are unfamiliar with Buddhism are surprised that all Buddhists are not necessarily vegetarians.  That and the Buddha is not worshipped as a God.

Why blog?

I have no idea!  Seriously!  I thought it would be for my Illinois friends and others.  I thought this would be how we could kind of stay in touch.  But they don’t really read my blog.  They’re always, “oh yeah.  What’s the address for that again?”  But now I have made a few connections through the blog that really does feel like community.  I am happy to be so focused on my own practice and the temple and all, but it is also really nice to have this broad sense of Sangha.  I think it’s a real connector for Gen X practitioners, too.  Our brick-and-mortar Sangha is comparatively well-dispersed generationally, but I know that is not really the case around the country, and there is some understandable concern about what will happen when the Boomer generation has gone.  Buddhist blogging can be a doorway into practice, I think.

What types of changes have you noticed in yourself/not-self since you began practicing?

Heh heh!  Not-self…  Yeah, that cookie keeps trying to crumble, which has not been a real comfy experience I tellya.  I am a lot less wound up and a lot less of a perfectionist.  My standards for myself and my surroundings have gotten a little more relaxed.  I was pretty hyper-organized, always 5 or 10 minutes early for everything, and while not a clean freak, there was a bit more of a tendency to lose the forest for the trees sometimes.  There was a point in my practice when all of that just kind of started melting down.  It was awful!  It was definitely against my will, and I just had to deal with it.  It seemed like there was a big part of self-identity that was held together by this anxiety, and once that started letting go, it all just started falling apart, and I would forget really important things, I would double-book appointments then forget both of them.  Missed appointments, forgotten promises dramatic screw-ups.  My old strategies just stopped working, and it was really disturbing.  And yet, I found that the world didn’t end.  My friends and colleagues still cared about me, even if I dropped the ball on some really important things.  This is similar to the lessons from being the chant leader.  The experience of making mistakes in front of the community.  Not only have I lived to tell, but the community still accepts me!  And that acceptance is not based upon being perfect at anything.  It’s not about a me that is doing.  It’s about just being.  I have observed practice having a balancing effect on others, too.  It is amazing, really.

What do you care about now that you may not have paid much attention to before?

I think before, my spiritual practice (probably universally), was about feeling better, or feeling more in control of my life.  I don’t know that that is necessarily changed,but now, in addition to continually being treated to the reality of no control, there is a deeper question: “What is TRUE?”  Which can just be there, control or no control, feeling better or feeling worse.  What is TRUE?

Thank you for taking the time for this interview/swap! It has been fun and informative!

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My personal Internet Usage Policy

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A few people posted some replies and discussions based in part on my recent post on race. I’d just like to clarify that it’s not that I don’t feel that race isn’t an important issue, or one worth taking up. It’s just that for me, I want to avoid it the topic when blogging and on the internet in general. There are some other things I try to steer clear from as well (most notably partisan politics). This got me thinking a bit about how I want to and should be spending my time online, and how my interactions truly reflect the person typing these words as well as the part of me that is trying to embrace wisdom, compassion, and kind-heartedness. This is something I’ve been examining and dwelling on for some time now.

So I’ve created my own personal Internet Usage Policy. These are some rules, guidelines, and reminders about how I spend my time online. I’d like to clarify now that this is MY list, and I don’t feel like anyone should have to adopt any of the following positions. However, it might be a worthwhile effort to create your own IUP, and see what you can do to stick with it.

1. Debate proves nothing other than who the best debater is. Debate exists solely to prop up a ‘right’ version of ‘me’. Therefore, I will avoid debate at all costs. Instead I will look toward discussion when engaging others, as discussion is a means to foster “us” rather than “I”. In a similar light, I should be mindful that my posts are responses to, rather than reactions from whatever their inspiration might be.

2. Regarding blog rolls, commenting, following on Twitter, and feeling “obligated”:

  1. I put up on my blog “roll” blogs that I read regularly, and would like to suggest to others to check out. That is why they are there. I don’t put up blogs simply because they have listed mine in their blog roll somewhere. If I didn’t include your blog, it should not come as an insult. I sometimes get overwhelmed by the number of items in my Google Reader, and can’t keep up with everyone on a regular basis. Also sometimes blogs just aren’t my cup of tea.
  2. I don’t often comment. That doesn’t mean I didn’t read your post, it just means that I didn’t feel compelled to say “nice post” or engage in discussion. Maybe it wasn’t warranted. Plenty of people do the same here. It’s okay. It was probably a great post, and I appreciate the effort you put into it. But this isn’t Little League, and we don’t all need a participation trophy every time we get up to bat.
  3. Regarding Twitter, I have the same policy as mentioned in (1). I follow people because I am interested in what they are tweeting. I don’t feel any obligation to follow anyone because they follow me, nor should you feel obligated to follow me because I follow you. I’m not on Twitter to have the most followers. I’m there to share information and listen to different points of view. If I don’t follow you back, don’t consider it an insult. Some people like mint chocolate chip, other people like pistachio. No biggie.

3. I won’t use the internet as a means simply to promote myself or to become more popular. In blogging the lines between self promotion and discussion/sharing certainly do get blurred at times, but there are boundaries one can adhere to, and I should remain mindful that I do so. When I post my blog or other blogs to reddit or twitter or other sharing services, it isn’t to get more views (I don’t have ads here, so what good do more views get me?) but to drive traffic in order to foster discussion. Understandably, not everyone will have an opinion on everything I write, so I should be okay with that. And when someone agrees with what I’ve written there is no need to comment saying “yup, I agree”. More or fewer comments should not affect my ego and I should be careful to notice when they do (because they will).

4. I will be careful not to get caught up in generalizations. For example, simply because I disagree with most of the GOP’s agenda does not mean I support the Democratic Party’s positions de facto. I should do well to remember the same for the rest of the world when it comes to such dualistic thought. My world is not black and white, I should not expect other’s to be so either.

5. I will always use my real name when applicable and reasonable. I will attempt to use a real photo of myself as well. This helps others to remember that those using the internet are human beings, not just words on a screen.

6. I will always remain skeptical of claims made on the internet, especially those without sources to back them up. Likewise I will only use Wiki as a jumping off point to find more information, never to be relied completely upon. Using just one source of information as a basis for my opinions will leave me more ignorant than if I had never read the source in the first place. Because at that point, I’ve become a parrot.

7. I will examine my motivations for writing a blog post, tweet, or comment at least 3 times before I click “submit”. I will examine the content at least the same number of times.

8. I will avoid commenting anywhere unless I feel that it will really further the discussion, or set some facts straight. However when pursuing the latter, I will do so in a manner that does not result in ad hominem, but only provides information, to foster a greater understanding.

9. I should not assume that a comment or blog post will change people’s minds. I should take into consideration the fact that presenting negative opposing views rather than positive alternative views will probably only entrench the other party more firmly into their view, and me into mine. Mother Theresa said it best:

I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.

10. I will use the internet to engage others, to seek information, and further my understanding. When it becomes a burden, obligation, or addiction, I will shut it off.

11. If I find myself getting angry or upset over what someone has written, I will not comment or respond for at least 24 hours. Then I will invoke #7.

12. At times I will undoubtedly fail to adhere to this list. When I do so, I should examine why, and attempt to clarify or rectify any wrong that I have done. With the vicarious nature of the internet, apologies should come more easily than they do.

I’m sure there are some other things I’m missing here, what do you think? Is a personal IUP worthwhile?

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Blogging about race

*Warning: this post does contain some hateful language, but it is presented in a fact-finding way, and it should be clear that there is no intention of hate on my part when using these words. I felt that using the words in this context was important to deliver the overall message.

 

Recently, a fellow blogger Kyle wrote a bit about race and privilege and then there was quite a discussion in the comments. Check it out if you want, though you won’t see any comments by me.

That’s because I don’t want to talk about race. I know that it is an important issue. I know that issues about race are bound to come up when dealing with Buddhism, bloggers, and inflated egos on the internet. Some of these discussions are very important. But I don’t want any part of them. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m white. I’ve simply had it with issues of race. (and yes, I understand the irony of this post)

I grew up in Saginaw, MI. My whole life, Saginaw has been in the top 10 most segregated cities/areas in the country. For a long time it has been Black on the East side of the river, and White on the West side (and Latinos close to the water on the West side). Saginaw is a town much like Flint, Detroit, or Gary, Indiana. Back after WW2, African-Americans were actually able to find work in these Northern industrial towns, and they were paid well. Well, this scared the shit out of the white folks in Saginaw, so they all started moving farther West of the river, where the land had been previously used for farm or was vacant forest. Many of the homes that the white folks abandoned were left vacant and property values dropped as houses sat unsold and began to deteriorate. If you’ve ever seen a Micheal Moore film, he’ll usually show a bunch of abandoned houses somewhere in Flint. It’s not the same street that he shows over and over. It’s common place to find such conditions in many areas there, and in recent years that’s become the norm in areas in Saginaw as well.

On top of white flight, GM once employed over 30,000 people at a factory once called simply “GM Steering Gear”. That’s where my Father (luckily) continues to work today. Of course now he does the job that 3 salaried plant managers and a secretary once did. Oh, and he only has about 4,500 co-workers now. There were other manufacturing business that depended on sales to Steering Gear that now sit empty as well. Ask many today, and they’ll blame the lazy Black man. Never mind that it was GM’s poor management, shitty cars, and the UAW asking for unreasonable demands that were the real culprit (there are plenty of other reasons as well, but those are the most direct). It was just easy to blame it on low production due to lazy black people.

So that’s a short history of the city I grew up in. And obviously only a tiny fraction of it. But I felt it important to include. It might help you understand why I grew up hearing African-Americans called niggers and negroes and colored people (“hey, if the NAACP can use it, so can I!” – something I heard on more than one occasion) instead of African-American or Black (I’m not a fan of either of these terms either).

A lot of times growing up I would hear racial slurs, but always with the addendum that “well, I don’t hate Black people, just niggers.” (don’t worry, I also heard about stupid Polloks, wetbacks, camel jockeys, towel heads and “Indian givers”) Oh, well, that makes sense! There are good “x” people, and then there are the “other x” people. It isn’t a surprise that I ended up parroting those sentiments later in life (much to my present dismay). My grandfather, uncles, father all repeated this message for most of my life, never believing themselves to be racist, of course.

Understandably I was confused as a youth when my mother (my parents divorced when I was 7) began dating one of “those people”. When we headed to the other side of town for that first time, I was terrified. The image of the scary black man had been firmly implanted in my head. But I never met him. What I did meet was a bunch of really nice people who ate some really good food (and some really weird food) and liked to invite us over for cookouts in the summer time. It turned out that they were people too.

Of course even more confusion set in when I wasn’t allowed to talk to my grandparents about mom’s new boyfriend. (On a side note, my mother did date an African-American cop for a month or so and I remember him referring to his baton as a “nigger beater”. Yet another mixed signal to send to a 9-year-old). I didn’t want to tell anyone about my new friends on the other side of the river for fear that I would be punished or ostracized in some way. I was yelled at for championing Malcolm X, and told that I should have looked up to Dr. King, because he was one of “the good ones”. Hip-hop or, “nigger music” wasn’t allowed in my house either.

Clearly, confusion about race was an ever-present factor in my childhood.

Flash-forward a few years to when I was 16-17. I went to visit my friends Del and Steve to play some basketball quite a bit in the summer. They were on an AAU team with my friend Troy that I lived near and became close friends with. Twice I was pulled over for “driving while white”. Never heard of it? I know, mostly you’ve heard of “driving while black” and people getting harassed in that way. Getting pulled over for DWW is when a white person gets pulled over in a black neighborhood because they suspect you of being there to purchase drugs. After all, what other possible reason could a white person have for making his way over to the black part of town?

It was at this point too, that I started to notice that being white came with baggage I never knew about. While I did make a few friends over on “that” side of the river, I made just as many enemies. Steve’s sister was especially critical, asking why he needed to have a “fucking white boy” in the house. “Fuck you white boy” was something I heard quite a bit just walking down the god damned street on my way to the corner party store. Of course Del frequently told me I was “at least a 1/4 black” furthering the blurry line in my head regarding race/culture. How the hell was I supposed to feel and react to all of this?

Now let’s head over to history class. American History apparently starts in 1492 with Columbus “discovering” the West Indies (isn’t that kind of like discovering my neighbor’s back yard?). Then nothing happens for over a hundred years until Jamestown, and then the pilgrims and a big happy feast at Thanksgiving! Then the French and Indian war, American revolution, early American politics, if you’re lucky you might get a chapter about the wars with the Native tribes and a mention of Sitting Bull, then it’s the civil war, depression, the 2 world wars, civil rights, yadda yadda yadda you know the story.

Hmmm…. something is missing here. Weren’t there already people here, before Columbus? Didn’t they have any history? Culture? Art? Well, not if you read the history books they don’t. To find out about my ancestors, I had to search out some college girl’s thesis paper. If you do happen to take the time to browse through it, you’ll see there is an extremely rich history there. And one of my ancestors was a Native woman (one of many), who was Michigan’s first real business woman, a widow in her 20’s that was successful enough to send her children away to a Canadian private school. She was hugely influential in her time and place and never once did I hear her name during my Michigan History class. All that was ever mentioned were the wars between the Michigan settlers and the native savages. Never mind the fact that the French fur trappers and Natives were extremely cooperative and came to rely on one another and marry each other and take up each other’s religions up there on Mackinaw Island. Nah. Let’s just skip over that and learn about the rich timber barons and Henry Ford. I only happened upon her when doing some research into my family’s history. A couple of generations of a family and an important part of Michigan’s history reduced to an obscure PDF.

So by now you might be wondering, why is he talking about all this? To score racial sympathy points? Why does this white guy have a bug up his ass? I included this bit of personal history because I felt that it was relevant. Relevant to show that issues of race affect all people, including myself. I revealed all of this to show that I’ve had it up to my ears when dealing with issues of race. Racism abounds in this world, this is true. And it comes from people of all colors, and it reaches out to people of all colors. I find it disgusting that we use skin color as the basis for dividing a people. I find it equally disgusting that we use race to keep communities insular and homogenous. “If everyone looks like me, I’m safe! If someone looks different, lock your doors and grab your gun!”

I’ve seen my family literally torn apart because of it (my mom finally decided to bring her boyfriend to meet my grandfather – on his deathbed). I’ve seen the city I loved growing up in destroyed in part because of it. There is no way to escape issues of race, and I have no desire to ignore it (nor could I if I wanted to); instead I’m just not going to confront it, especially not here on this blog. Call me a coward, blame it on my “white privilege”, I don’t give a shit. But don’t tell me that I don’t have to deal with those issues simply because I’m ‘white’. We all deal with issues of race whether we choose to acknowledge them or not, and we all deal with them differently.

Furthermore, I don’t feel that confronting issues of race tend to do anything to change anyone’s mind (there are some obvious exceptions), especially on a blog that no one reads anyway. Instead I feel that hitting at some of the underlying issues of racism (ignorance, culture, hate/fear) are way more worth my time if I ever felt like “combatting” racism. But I don’t. Let someone else do it. Because I’m sick of it. So sick of it all.

Cheers.

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Filed under Personal, Political

Elephant stampede! Crafting an online identity…

I have a post that’s been published on elephant journal! Check it out here. And a little teaser blurb:

And that’s why we love the online world and our online identities. Because they are easy. And they allow us to present ourselves in the best possible light, always making the right decisions. It’s easy to represent myself as a local-phile. It’s easy to represent myself as a serious student of the dharma. It’s easy to represent myself as someone that has a solid understanding of ‘x’, because everything I would need to know is a few clicks of the mouse away. It’s easy to represent myself however I choose; all I need is the right anonymous avatar and handle.

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Welcome!

Thank you for checking out my new blog, Fly Like a Crow.

First, what’s up with the name?

Check out the ‘About’ page at the top for more info on that. And take a moment to explore the other pages as well. They’re short and sweet, I promise.

So what is this blog about?

Beyond what you read on the about page, it will be a place to write and blog on a myriad of topics. Primarily, I’ll be focusing on Buddhism, and my family/being a father. I actually see these two things as being parallel lines on the same track of “me”. They are both an evolving practice where I work towards perfection. Every day brings a new challenge, struggle, and usually some success.

I might just try my hand at some more poetry here. It’s something I’ve only dabbled in before, and has been a long time since I’ve really written any.

I’m going to toss in some politics from time to time. Nothing hateful, no right vs. left narratives. There are plenty of those to go around.

I’ll continue to review books here, whether they get sent to me by authors or publishers, or ones that I just happen to purchase myself.

And there’s a slight possibility that I might get philosophical from time to time. I also might throw in some sutra study that I’ve been working on.

And sometimes, I’ll just throw up a picture or two. I’m also going to try to include a picture with more of my posts in general, and I’m going to try to only use ones that I’ve taken.

Whatever happens, it will flow naturally. Like my previous blogging endeavours, I have no ambitions to blog daily. Once, twice a week is about all I can muster given work and family responsibilities (and enjoying time with my family).

So, take a look around. You’ll notice all of my old posts from the past, minus a few I wasn’t proud of at all. Feel free to subscribe via RSS or email (head to the footer) and feel free to add this blog to your blog roll if you feel so inclined. Thank you for stopping by.

Cheers.

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Filed under Book Review, Buddhism, Home Brewing, Other, Parenting, Personal, Political

Something brewing in the atmosphere

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. It was a terrible, gruesome act perpetrated by a home-grown terrorist. It’s been recently pointed out in the media and the blogosphere that the current political atmosphere is comparable to what it was then, and I’d have to agree. This morning on NPR there was someone from Pew Research talking about how much more angry and untrusting the right become when a Democrat wins the Presidency than the left do when a Republican does. You can see some of this sentiment now in the Tea Party movement, and much like talk radio in the early-mid ’90s, you see it splattered all over the internet.

Personally, I’m sick of all the bullshit coming from the right and the left which is getting us largely no where except to further the chasm between Left™ and Right©.  Recently I asked Justin what place Buddhist ethics has in political discourse. I did this because I believe there needs to be a fresh voice in politics today. One that isn’t driven by a desire to wipe out the other side’s ideas or beliefs. One that isn’t so dualistic in nature that it can only prop itself up with the rhetoric of the destruction of the “other” side. One that has its roots in compassion, and strives for understanding. We will never, ever all agree on the same political and moral principles, but we can at least stop yelling at each other long enough to understand where the other side is coming from. We need a voice that recognizes that any ONE idea or philosophy is inherently exclusionary and can’t survive in an emergent democracy. We are a nation of many peoples, many cultures, and ideas. This is where we draw our strength and have propelled our country to the world’s utmost superpower. It is only an inclusive, emergent philosophy based in compassion and wisdom that is continually updated to include present-day knowledge that will end the great divide we now see splashed across (and perpetuated by) our headlines.

The old idea of a system based totally on a “free market” certainly is lovely on paper, but eventually leads to plutocratic tendencies and an inherent wealth divide that is virtually insurmountable by those at the lowest rungs of the ladder. And the idea of a communal society simply cannot work on a scale as grand as these United States. It might work just fine on a hippie commune (for which I have great admiration) but there is no way to run that type of system in a world economy. These ideal states are fine for your Philosophy 103 term paper, but have little value in the real world.

A recent example of this would be supply side economics. The idea is a great one. Give tax breaks to the rich, and the rich in turn will buy lots of yachts and start-up companies and do all of these great things that will put America to work and eventually create a healthy middle class by means of employment.  But every friggin time that has been attempted in real-life in the past century, the exact opposite happens. The wealthy don’t invest or go buy a lot of things that put people to work. They just put that fucking money in the bank and get a little richer. Great idea on paper, but zero real-world benefit to the lower or middle classes.

I do believe there is a way to the middle ground here. Repeat after me: there is a middle. There is a happy place where markets can be regulated without hampering innovation, and where government can be a place where society pools its interests to take care of its citizens most basic needs without crippling the economy. There is a way to enjoy your personal liberty and take care of your fellow citizens at the same time.

But how do we get to that middle ground? What are the specifics, and what are the practical ways in which we get there? Is there a way to apply those Buddhist ethics in a secular way to achieve this goal? Is there a way to bring it from the philosophical and into the practical?

I’m considering starting a group political blog to help answer some of these questions (and others) as well as raise some other ones. It will look at modern politics from a Buddhist perspective, one based in compassion, empathy, wisdom, and of course Fudo Myo. It would be an enviroment where, as Justin put it “…. we can we educate moderates and the near-right to expose the problems of the extreme right, instead of fueling their fire…”

If you’re at all interested, leave a comment here.

Cheers.

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Thoughts on blogging

I had this nice little post ready about peace. After I read it, the words were hollow. So I deleted it. This blog is hollow. Writing makes sense. Blogging doesn’t make any sense anymore. Am I writing, or addressing? The purpose of this blog was to get me to write more often. It was supposed to be the vehicle that helped me to master my craft. But almost a year later and the writing has not improved. I would even wager to say that my writing has gotten worse over the years.

Yet, I kind of enjoy the engagement of blogging. But I’m wondering what purpose it now serves. Maybe I need a change in approach. A change in subject matter. Maybe it’s just a matter of connecting my inner voice to my fingertips. I usually find that what ends up on this page isn’t what I really intended. And I’m not really sure what the root cause of that is, nor what the solution is.

I’m kind of in a similar place with my practice. I’m not sure if Nichiren is the right vehicle for me. I haven’t been chanting much at all lately. Some of that is due to pure laziness. But part of me is dissatisfied with SGI and Nichiren Buddhism in general. Not a hate or dislike, there is just something that really doesn’t speak to me. For me it’s hard to find a connection there.

Oh, and we’re having another baby. So yeah, that’s kind of been on my mind lately.

Cheers.

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Filed under Personal

A new year, a new diet, and some thank you’s.

First, let me look back on 2009. No top ten lists here, (though I feel it’s worth mentioning that Full Sail’s Session Black was the best new beer I had this year) just some quick reflection. My son was born on Christmas Eve 2008, so this year has been all about not sleeping and the baby. My home brewing was a wash this year (2 great batches, and 2 that became infected). I took a vacation and just stayed home to spend time with my family. I helped raise some money for charity in November. I started a blog in March, and….. oh yeah, became a Buddhist. I can’t complain about 2009, and even if I did, what’s the point? It’s all in the past now. While nothing monumental happened, my son hit so many milestones and kept surprising me and challenging me that to call this past year boring would be a flat-out lie. I’ve had a great year, it’s been mostly focused around my family, sharing in our love, and for that I am thankful.

So what’s next in 2010? Normally I’m of the “New Year’s resolutions are retarded” crowd. This year however, I find that it’s a great time to make some commitments, goals, and life changes.

1st: No more meat. Yup, after today I’m going “veg”. A few people have asked me why, and I haven’t come up with a great reason for them. I suppose it’s simply that I don’t want to kill animals anymore. I like them. There are plenty of healthy alternatives, and it’s better for the enviroment to eat a diet that doesn’t involve meat. James from The Buddhist Blog posted this video awhile back that I think has a great message (without being one of those gross PETA videos).

So I have many personal reasons (moral, ethical, enviromental) to not eat meat, and the only reason I can find to continue to eat it is that “bacon is tasty” (which it is. I’v previously stated that I would walk across broken glass like Bruce Willis in Die Hard for bacon). So, I will miss steak, and beef jerky, and bacon, and burgers, but I think I will be getting much more in return. Also, I’m not going to push my vegetarianism on anyone else. Really, I’m not here to judge your diet. Eat what you want, but please do think about where it came from.

2nd: A more committed practice. The idea is to chant twice a day, though I’ve been failing at this miserably. I seem to always find some sort of excuse to not chant. So with the New Year, I’m going to make a stronger mental effort to chant twice daily. The only crappy part about this is the fact that I will sleep/rest less. My son currently wakes up about 5 times a night, and finally gets up around 6:30am. I try and just sit with him for a half hour or so to let my wife gain a little bit of sleep, but now I’ll just have to take him into the living room with me so we can chant together. I suppose I can sleep when I’m dead.

3rd: Add meditation to my practice. This isn’t going to be something that I will start Jan 1. This is something that may not happen for a few months, but it is something I feel the need to add. I’m reading up on different approaches and techniques now, and will try to figure out what works best for me.

That’s it. Those are my concrete goals and affirmations for 2010. Am I a perfect father/husband/employee/friend? Hell no! But I’m already working on those things all the time, and I don’t feel the need to make a new resolution to just make myself feel good. The three things I listed are things I want to do, feel I can accomplish, and I feel like the time is right to make them all happen.

I’d like to take just a moment to thank all of my readers that have stuck with me from some of my first posts on Blogger all the way to now. Likewise, thanks to those of you that have joined as of late, have commented, and have supported and challenged me. Also, thank you to my fellow bloggers that I’ve met and have been willing to discuss everything from the 5th precept to squirrel nuts to the culture and politics of Buddhism in the West and beyond (including Buddhist Purgatory). And last, thank you to my beautiful wife for putting up with my sometimes excessive interweb use. I love you.

Have a happy (and safe) New Year’s everyone.

Cheers.

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Filed under Buddhism, Personal